Kotoko Equestrian Figurines - Chad/Cameroon

Among the varied metalworking traditions that span the African continent, the miniature bronze equestrian figurines of the Kotoko hold a singular place. Known as putchu guinadji (“horse demon”), these small objects are worn as amulets, bestowing protection upon their owners. The Kotoko, who inhabit the territory surrounding Lake Chad, believe these diminutive horsemen have the power to quell malevolent spirits and shield the wearer from sickness of body and soul.

Putchu guinadji are usually worn on a string or leather band under the arm, concealed from sight beneath garments. It is forbidden for anyone to touch one of the horsemen while it is engaged in its conflict with the spirits, as the madness surrounding the wearer may be passed on. The talisman may be worn for many, many years, and by friction against the wearer’s body will develop a smooth patina. After the wearer has died, the figurine may be buried with them, or it could be sold or given back to the marabout who activated it.

This quintet of putchu guinadji displays a magnificent diversity of form and attitude within a classic compositional approach. Each bears its own unique silhouette and accoutrements, each an upright bearing of pride and strength, cleverly articulated by the craftsman.

Figures may be purchased individually or as a group.

19th to mid-20th century
1 3/4" to 2 1/4" h
Private U.S. collection
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